Q&A: Jeremy Renner and director Michael Cuesta, "Kill the Messenger"
The political thriller “Kill the Messenger,” out Oct. 10, tells the true story of journalist Gary Webb, who was responsible for the discovery of the CIA’s “dark alliance” during the Cold War. Directed by Michael Cuesta (executive producer, “Homeland,” “Blue Bloods”), the film stars Jeremy Renner (“Inception,” “The Bourne Trilogy,” “American Hustle”), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) and Rosemarie DeWitt (“The Watch”). The Eagle’s Tam Sackman sat down with Cuesta and Renner to discuss their film.
The Eagle: Jeremy, this is your first time producing a film. How was your involvement in the project different than just being a part of the talent?
Jeremy Renner: I felt like my voice actually mattered. I knew it was going to be a hard road to get the movie made, and we were going to have to find some creative ways to get it made. Your job as an actor is really kind of nothing. You have to really get things going. It was great to be a part of that side. It was a great crew to surround yourself with. It was really, really fun. We had a great time. Every day on set was great.
E: Mr. Cuesta, you’re also an executive producer on Showtime’s “Homeland.” What is it about issues of national security that interest you?
Michael Cuesta: Before “Homeland,” I had never done any political movie or any project, so that was the first piece. I don’t really want to talk about that project, but that project came at the right time, because I thought it was interesting to sort of examine our policy through a character that’s brilliant but incredibly stupid, or – not stupid, but incredibly flawed. So that idea of bipolarity with a character who’s supposed to keep us safe is just interesting. This wasn’t like “oh, I want to do another movie about the CIA or national security.” It was because of Gary. It was because of who he was as a guy and the passion that he had for that job— I related to that. As Jeremy was saying, it was about the guy, personally.
Then, as I got to know his wife a little bit— even talking to his son, Ian, him and I had a few long conversations — that’s where I really even got more into it, because I related to him. I related to the passion and really believing in what you do and having to tell a story or whatever it is, writing an article, if you’re an artist, making a film that you really believe in. I related to that.
E: What are the challenges of playing a character that was once a real person?
JR: Well, the challenges are that there’s information out there. You’re limited to what exists or existed. It’s easier at first because there’s a roadmap to finding that character because there’s lots of information about them and they exist. So, the picture is sort of half-painted and I just kind of have to fill in more details about them. I just can’t veer too far from the truth.
My job as an actor is to be mindful of human condition and finding the truth within human behavior. It’s great to have all of that information out there that I can piece together and fill in the blanks. But it’s supported by true things — whether it be stuff I know about because of the family or home videos that I’ve received or some stories that I’ve gotten from colleagues. But I had lots of information so I didn’t really have to make anything up. It’s also a huge responsibility because you are playing someone that did exist. You want to be really, really truthful and honest about that.
“Kill the Messenger” (R, 112 min) opens in theaters nationwide on Oct. 10.